It’s important to find the right balance between cleanliness and germ phobia.
Although careful cleaning is necessary while a baby is building immunity during its first six months of life, it’s not necessary to scrub down and sterilise everything in sight.
The main aim is to be meticulous in cleaning any item that ends up in a baby’s mouth – bottles, teats, dummies and all feeding utensils.
Cleaning baby bottles is not as arduous as it used to be.
Once upon a time, nervous new parents were told they had to sterilise their new-borns’ bottles by boiling them in water on the stove.
That regimen has relaxed.
As soon as the baby has finished their bottle, rinse it out under running water so that bacteria are less likely to develop and the bottle will come clean more readily.
Wash the bottle and teat in hot water with dishwashing liquid, taking special care to remove any caked-on milk in the interior corners and the underside of the teat. (A bottle-brush will help with this.)
Force soapy water through the hole in the teat and rinse thoroughly with running water.
Position bottle and teat in a clean dish drainer or on paper towels to drain and air-dry.
An alternative is to put the separated bottles and teats in the dish-washer, positioning the bottles upside down and the teats pointing up so that water does not collect inside.
Use high heat and the drying cycle. You can store the clean bottles in a cupboard, but in most house-holds with babies, the bottles don’t sit still long enough to gather dust.
In the absence of adequate cleaning facilities, rinsed bottles, teats and caps should be sterilised in a commercial chlorine-based antibacterial solution, such as Milton.
To keep a changing table clean, place a couple of clean paper towels on it before each nappy change to protect the pad from germs.
If the mess saturates the paper towels or extends beyond them, clean up with detergent or liquid soap and water.
Rinse off the area with water, then pour a little methylated spirits on a clean cloth and wipe down the pad and table to finish off.
To clean a nappy bucket, use a freshly prepared solution of 1⁄4 cup of bleach to 4 litres of water.
Wear rubber gloves and rinse well with running water.
A nappy bucket should have a tight-fitting lid.
Line the bucket with a plastic bag, and when it’s full tie the bag top tightly and then dispose of it in an outside rubbish bin.
To clean strollers and high chairs, sprinkle bicarbonate of soda on a damp paper towel or clean cloth and wipe down the item, then rinse with warm water.
(Bicarbonate of soda is a mild alkali that can make dirt dissolve in water. It acts as a mild abrasive when not totally dissolved.)
A sponge is no good for washing the surfaces of baby equipment, because bacteria can become trapped in the sponge and spread to other surfaces the next time it’s used.
To clean a cot, use bicarbonate of soda (as described above) and wipe the cot rails over.
Wash baby bed linens in a washing machine, using hot water to kill bacteria.
When cleaning baby toys, remember that a lot of plastic and rubber toys will stand up to the rigours of a dishwasher.
Toss them into the dishwasher regularly to keep microbes or organic material on the toys to a minimum. Give any grubby looking ones a quick scrub with an old toothbrush first.
Wash stuffed animals in the washing machine, using hot water to kill dust mites that may be lurking.
■ Clean, rinse and then sterilise bottles, teats and dummies during the first six months of a baby’s life.
■ Give a baby changing table a wipe down after each nappy change.
■ Clean up food spills on high chairs and strollers as soon after they happen as possible. Use paper towels or disposable wipes for the job.
■ Wash plastic toys in the dishwasher and soft toys in the washing machine.
When it comes to baby hygiene, the paediatrician’s message is clear and simple: ‘Wash your hands!’
A newborn baby’s immune system starts working on its own at about six weeks of age.
Before that, the sum of a baby’s immunity consists of whatever the mother supplied during pregnancy and through breastfeeding.
To fend off bacteria, encourage the entire family to wash their hands before holding the baby, and don’t be afraid to ask guests to do the same.
Frequent hand washing with soap and water will stop the spread of most common germs: no special antibacterial products are required.
And don’t forget that hand washing is equally important before preparing a meal as well as after changing the baby’s nappy.